Tag Archives: sister

No Concern of Danger

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I’m sitting at a friend’s house, at a Superbowl party.  The game is on but, like most people at Superbowl parties, I’m not really watching it.  Like most people, I come for the queso and stay for the deep fat fried turkey.  Everywhere I look are close friends, good acquaintances and strangers who, judging by their honest faces, have the strong potential to someday be either.

The man next to me, Curtis, is one of my closest friends and is currently holding my youngest daughter on his lap, letting her spittle and saliva run over his thumb and down the back of his hand.  This is the sign of true friendship.  At my feet his daughter, three, plays with my twins, also three.  I am grateful to avert my eyes from The Big Game to focus instead on their little one.  Rory picks up a green truck and begins to slowly push it across the polished wooden floor, making noises that sound like the imaginary driver is grinding the imaginary clutch.  I slide off the couch, reach forward, grab him by the foot and pull him to me.  He squirms and laughs and fights me off and says, “NO!” but I say, “Play with me!” and I take the green car and he crawls away.  I roll it across the ground and Rory retrieves it for me.  I give him a hug and kiss him on the cheek and say, “Thanks for bringing this back.  I love you…” and he wipes off my kiss and runs away.

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Later, I’m standing outside as our host lowers a turkey into a deep fat fryer.  The oil rises, the turkey sizzles and the smell of cooking bird immediately fills the air.  The Host clinks his beer against my coffee cup and says, “I hope I don’t burn my house down,” and I silently nod in agreement.  The front door opens and Rory pokes his head out, looking from side to side.  He lays eyes upon me and says, “Daaaaaaad?” and I say, “Yes, Rory?”  He walks out the door, leaving it hanging open, walks down the steps, makes his way across the driveway, approaches me, standing toe to toe with my person, looks up into my face and says, “I want a cupcake.”

A reasonable request.  I say, “Okay… let’s go get you one.”  He leads me back across the driveway, up the steps, through the door, past the TV, to the table and points at a tray of frosted pastries.  He says, “That one.  The green one.”  I grab it, put it on a plate and, just as I’m getting ready to cut it up for him he says, “No… I can do it.  I can eat it.  By myself.”

He’s growing up and it pains me.

Sitting down on the floor I convince him to let me hold the cupcake and feed him because it’s so messy.  When we’re finished, his lips, chin, teeth, fingers and hands are covered with green frosting.  Without thinking he wipes his face on his shirt and asks for another cupcake, a request which I deny.  Instead I take him into the kitchen where I begin to press a wet a paper towel against his face and hands.

How much longer will this be acceptable?  When will he push me away, embarrassed?

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The game ends and the slow murmur and shuffle of people gathering their items begins; jackets, car seats, tupperware, car keys.  My wife puts shoes on the kids and packs Bryce away while I wander through the house aimlessly, saying needless good-byes to people.  We both thank our friends for hosting the party and then walk out the door, into the light drizzle.  In my right hand I carry Bryce’s car seat and in my left hand, Rory and I grip each other tightly.

Having to have parked on the street, we make the long walk down the driveway of the gated community, through the gate, and into the wet street, the neighborhood being one of these places that simply doesn’t have sidewalks.  The van is about a block and a half up and the street is fairly isolated so there is no concern of danger.

The group of us walk and talk and we praise the children for playing nicely and for sharing and for being so good.  We walk and talk and say that we had so much fun.  We walk and talk and I turn around and say, “Here comes a car,” and all of us push to the side of the road until it passes.  We continue to move towards our car, twenty feet away, so close, which is nice because I’m starting to feel the weight of the baby seat on my right arm.

Rory begins pulling at my hand and I say, “Rory, we’re walking in the street.  You need to hang onto Daddy’s hand,” and he says, “I don’t want to!” and I say, “You have to,” and I say, “We’re almost to the car,” and then I turn around and see another automobile coming towards us.  I holler behind me, to Jade, and say, “Another car, step aside,” and we push ourselves towards the side of the road, in between two parked cars.

Rory tries letting go of me again and I say, “Rory, stop it,” because now he’s just being naughty and he knows that he needs to hold my hand.  He jerks once, twice and then screams, leaning backwards.  I say, “Rory.  Rory!  RORY!” and then he gives one final scream and then everything else happens fast.  Too fast.

Rory jerks his hand free from mine and I feel him slide out of my grip.  His little body stumbles backwards, foot behind foot.  The dark road suddenly goes bright with headlights and I cry out and Jade shouts, “RORY!”  He takes two more steps, out past the parked cars, into the street, and my stomach turns into a knot.  I reach out but he’s gone, too far away.  I drop Bryce and try to move but I know I can’t make it in time.  He steps on his shoelace and his body tumbles to the ground.  The car – a large black SUV – comes up on him and my breath catches in my throat.

Rory shuts his eyes and I want to but can’t.

The SUV blasts past him no more than a few feet away.  If he hadn’t stepped on his shoelaces… if if if… the possibility hangs in the air like a vampire.

I take three large steps towards my son, grab him by the collar and lift him into the air, his feet dangling, and I forcibly drag him back to the curb while he still, to my great amazement, continues to attempt to pull out of my grasp.  I drop him on the hard concrete, squat down, grab his face in my hands and squeeze his cheeks so he can’t look away from me.  I say, in the absolute angriest tone I can fathom, “Rory!  You do NOT let go of Daddy’s hand when we’re in the street!  You were almost run over and KILLED by the car.  That car almost RAN YOU OVER.  You almost DIED.  You do not ever, ever, EVER let go of my hand EVER AGAIN.  Do you understand me?!” and, instead of confirming with me he simply begins to scream and pull at my hand saying, “LET GO OF ME!  LET GO OF ME!”

I grab Bryce and begin to march to our van at double speed, dragging him behind me, scared, angry, furious.  I open the back door and say, “Get in your seat,” and, instead of listening, he says, “NO!” and so I pick him up, throw him into the car, crawl in after him, pick him up and throw him into his car seat.  He screams, demands candy, which totally baffles me, throws his hands in the air and screams again.  I thrust his arms through the straps of the car seat and say, “Candy?  Candy!?  You’re not getting candy!” while in my head I’m just thinking, “Thank you God thank you God thank you God that I get to buckle him in tonight kicking and scream I love him I love him I love him…

On the way home all I can think about are small coffins and cemeteries that I can’t bring myself to leave.

I almost lost him.

I could never forgive myself.

We get home and I put pajamas on Rory, put him to bed, kneel down next to him and whisper prayers in his ear, prayers that only he can hear.  I say, “Dear God, thank you for Rory, thank you for giving him to me, thank you for protecting him tonight.  Thank you for everyday I have with him.  Thank you for blessing me with another night with this beautiful little boy,” and I pull back and I look upon his face and I see him in a new light.  I see how blue his eyes are.  I see the swirls of designs in them.  I see how little and how white his teeth are.  I see the perfect gaps between them.  I see his blonde hair, pieces sticking up in the back, his little fingers poke over the blanket and I see that his fingernails are filthy with perfect dirt.

Everyday with my children is a beautiful gift that makes me sick with despair and anxiety.

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The Best Recipes in Oz

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Darkness is shining in through both of my bedroom windows when I finally retire for the evening.  Bryce is already in her crib, sound asleep while my wife sits in the dark manually breast pumping.  I just hear a squish-squish-squish noise as a I navigate over mounds of laundry and sharp furniture.

I set my book down with a thud, I set my phone down with a tink and I set my clothes down with a sluff, my belt latch hitting the wood with a piercing ting!  I look up and Jade is staring at me – squish, squish, squish – and says, “Could you make any more noise?  And, with completely impeccable comedic timing, I fart.

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For reasons unknown to me, I’ve been nursing a Monster Energy Drink for the past two hours and now, preparing to lie down, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to sleep.  I’ve  been sitting on the couch for the past hour reading The Wizard of Oz, hoping to bring on The Drowsies but to no avail.  I crawl into bed… my head hits the pillow… who am I fooling?  I dream about things both vague and nonsensical; things that make no logical reason in the waking world.  People I know play new roles in my dreams; my boss is my cousin, ex-girlfriends are my boss, South Dakota is Los Angeles.  I accept it all without question.

A shriek pierces through the dream clouds and I look towards the sky… open my eyes… I’m in bed.  The baby is crying.  Panic shoots from my brain to my heart and out my limbs.  I throw the blankets back and sit up, completely positive that something horrible is happening but completely positive that I have no idea what it is or how to remedy it.  Everything is moving slow and stupid, myself included.  Instead of turning on the light I just sit in the dark and stare at my toes trying to decide what my next move should be.

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Jade says, “Are you going to get the baby?” and I say, with just a hair too much anger in my voice, “Yes.  Yes, of course I’m going to pick up the baby.  You think I’m just going to sit here and let it cry?”  and she says, “Let her cry.  She’s a girl,” and I look down at my hands, still unsure about just what is going on.  I’m stuck in that horrible, horrible, terrible place where I’m not asleep but not awake, where hallucinations are possible and everything feels like you’re floating along in a drug induced coma.

Jade says, “JOHN,” with just a hint too much anger in her voice and I say, “Lay off!  I have no idea what’s happening! and I sit up and pick up the baby, stand up, set her on the changing table.  I unwrap her swaddle, unbutton her pajamas, pull out her feet, prep the new diaper, prep the wipes and open the old diaper.  This is the part that’s always like the worst game show of all time for parents.  What’s behind door number two?!  It’s……. JUST A BUNCH OF PEE!

Not tonight.  Tonight is a smear of yellow dookie that looks like someone power sneezed it into a Kleenex.  I wipe, clean, dry, replace old diaper with new diaper, put the squirming legs back in the pajamas, button them up, set the baby in the swaddle, take the left side over the right and then the right side over the left, tying her up in some weird cloth burrito that seems to me to be a complete claustrophobic nightmare but the baby seems to love it.

I hand her to Jade, turn and head to the kitchen to throw away the diaper and then to the bathroom where I pee and wash my hands.

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Back in the room I’m sitting on the edge of the bed and Jade says, “She’s asleep.  Here.  Take her.  Be gentle.  Don’t wake her,” and so I take Bryce from her and, instead of placing her back in the crib, I just hold her in my arms and bounce her and stare at her and say, “Jade… it’s absolutely incredible that your recipes are so…” and the other words I’m about to say are, “widely used in the land of Oz,” but I stop myself because I realize that this is somehow wrong and ill-timed and not meant for this world and just what is happening in my brain?

Jade says, “What?” and, me, still convinced that the first half of that sentence is a fairly factual statement and, thinking I can somehow slide by the fact that I have no idea what is happening I say, “Your recipes, babe.  Your recipes.  It’s incredible that they’re so…” and she says, “What are you talking about?  Put the baby down.  Shut up.  Go to sleep,” and I set Bryce down in her crib and then suddenly, a darkness lifts from my vision and I can see the world around me.  I say, “Jade,” and she says, “Yes?” and I say, “I’m really sorry.  I’m really tired.  I have no idea what I’m saying right now,” and she says, “Why are you so tired?” and then I get panicky because maybe my brain is still screwed up.  I say, “Because… it’s 3am.  That’s normal, isn’t it?”

Isn’t it?

I just don’t know anymore.

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ABOVE: BRYCE IMITATES THE POPE.

The Baby is sleeping.  I lie on my back and pull the covers up to the bottoms of my eyeballs.  I turn on my side, then my other side, then my stomach and Jade says, “Can you make any more noise?” and then, with impeccable comedic timing, Bryce farts so wet and loud that she wakes herself up.  She farts again and I would bet that it’s really more of a shart.  She sharts again and that diaper is full.  I shut my eyes, but not to sleep.  It’s more in that resigned way that one might do after accidentally sending an email to a person who isn’t suppose to receive it because said email is full of insults you’ve written about them.  You know it’s too late.  You know it’s futile.  You know you have to deal with the consequences.

I turn on my light and say, “Bryce, stop picking on me.”

Jade begins to snore.

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